Hello, Oversteerers, and welcome to this week’s version of Ask Doug, a regular weekly feature that involves you (the reader) asking questions, and Doug (the Doug) responding to them with hastily researched half-truths.
If you’d like your question answered with a hastily researched half-truth, it can be! Just send me an email at OversteerDoug@gmail.com, or write me a note on my Facebook page, and I’ll read everything you have to say. I will also probably ignore it.
Today’s note comes to us from a reader I’ve named Jordan, who lives in Minneapolis. Jordan is asking about bringing old cars to dealerships for service, and he writes:
I was watching your video on older SUVs shooting up in value, and I thought, "At what point do dealers stop servicing a particular model of theirs?" When does the manufacturer cease creating replacement parts for their older cars? Can I bring a 25-year-old Lexus into my local dealership and expect them to have the components to replace my right rear-window electromechanical actuator?
Jordan, you’ve asked an excellent question, because it’s something I’ve pondered quite a bit. At what point does your dealership say, "Sorry, Sir, but we can no longer work on your 1947 vehicle on account of the fact that it was built before any of us were born?"
Every so often, you hear stories about some guy who bought a new car when he was 19 years old, and now he’s 103 and still has it. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if he was bringing it to the dealer this whole time? Like, at first, it’s a 1947 Ford in 1949, and he’s making warranty claims, and then it’s 1953, and it’s out of warranty. Then it’s 1963, and it’s 16 years old, and the next thing you know, it’s 2005, and the guy is working his 3-speed column shifter as he pulls into the service bay behind a Ford GT.
So the question is, at what point do you stop bringing the car to the dealership?
Now, I suspect I feel a little bit different about this topic than many of you will. Having worked for an automaker and for several car dealerships, I generally believe dealers offer higher-quality service than the average independent shop. Note that I said the average independent shop. I’ve had some amazing experiences with independent shops, but I’ve also had some not-so-amazing experiences. Find a good shop, of course, and you can have a relationship that lasts a lifetime. But a bad one can be a serious mistake.
Plus, there are some benefits to dealership servicing. The primary one, for me, is that you have a manufacturer standing behind the dealer in case things really go haywire. A dealership takes your car for a joyride and crashes into a lighted sign at Wendy’s with a big picture of Dave Thomas on it? Someone will immediately fix the problem. And if for some reason they don’t, you’ll soon be sending videos to the local news, posting on the forums and telling everyone, "Look what Volvo of Whatever did," and eventually someone in charge will step in. An independent shop takes your car for a joyride and smashes it into a tree so hard the CD slot is filled with bark? You’re filing a claim with the shop’s insurance company, Big Jimmy’s Auto Insurance and Used Digital Cameras.
Of course, the answer to this question also varies based on how you feel about your dealership. I would take any Land Rover, of any age, to my Land Rover dealership, Land Rover of Cherry Hill, because I love it there. The people are nice, they do good work, they’re communicative, and they have a fluffy dog who always greets you when you walk inside. When my fiancee and I were considering wedding venues, she was talking about these beautiful ballrooms, wonderful old houses and gorgeous gardens, and I was mentally computing how many tables you could fit into the Land Rover showroom, next to the F&I office.
More importantly, my Land Rover dealership has told me many times that they’re happy to work on any Land Rover, of any age, with no concerns. In fact, they took me into the back of the shop the last time I was there, and the service department was working on some vehicles from the 1980s — a far cry from the $150,000 Range Rover Autobiography on the showroom floor.
So, to sum up what I’m saying here, Jordan, this is my answer: I have absolutely no idea, and it very much depends on your specific situation. Some dealers will gladly take older cars, happy for any service business they can get. Some dealers will probably refuse you. Some independent shops are so good they’re worth visiting the minute your warranty expires. Some aren’t. And Big Jimmy’s Auto Insurance and Used Digital Cameras is currently running a special: Buy a lightly used 3-megapixel digital camera from 2008, and get a 3-month umbrella policy for free.
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.